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When consumers go online to book an upcoming trip, they expect to find answers to their questions — about a hotel’s pet policy, pool hours, or on-site restaurants — with a click or a tap. But making sure such details are readily accessible is not as straightforward as it may seem. Consumers have a wide range of questions, and content must be accurate and up-to-date at all times. At the same time, distribution channels work with a number of hotels that provide varying types and amounts of information.
How do hotels get current information about their property out to the people that need it, in the way they want it, and in the formats that work best? This question illustrates the “content conundrum,” according to Dee Thomas, director of content services for DerbySoft. In some cases, hotel companies have their data in one format but distributors need it in another. Or a distributor wants different details altogether. Other times, a hotel company may have trouble obtaining updated information from its individual hotel properties. SkiftX spoke with Thomas to learn more about today’s challenges regarding hospitality distribution.
SkiftX: What is the current state of managing and distributing content in the hospitality industry?
Dee Thomas: It’s all over the place, and it’s not very automated. I frequently hear hotel companies say they deal with a lot of spreadsheets. They’ve got a spreadsheet from Distributor 1, with a list of all the information it needs about a hotel. Then, Distributor 2 is asking for a different set of information, and it provides its own spreadsheet. Distributor 3 might be the big guy in the industry, with an extranet site he wants hotels to log into to input information. There are a few companies, including DerbySoft, that offer an application that can help consolidate content in one place and then push it out to different distribution partners.
SkiftX: What should content providers consider when they’re choosing a content partner?
Thomas: Distributors need to look at what content they need and what their end users are going to need. But they also need to step back and look at what the suppliers can provide. Also, do they want a push or pull model?
Another thing to consider is coverage. As a distributor, are most of your clients U.S.-based or are they global? If they are global, will you be able to get information on hotels worldwide to support your customer base?
Can the provider offer multilingual content? That’s one of the things DerbySoft can support — content in many different languages. Whatever we get from the supplier, whatever languages they offer and can provide to us, we can make those available to their distribution partners, as well.
And if the traveler type or trip purpose is important to the distributor, they need to know how their content provider can support personalized content that speaks to that particular traveler. DerbySoft handles this through tagging, allowing suppliers to create multiple property descriptions tailored to different traveler types, such as a business traveler or someone traveling with kids.
SkiftX: What are some of the pros and cons of pushing content vs. pulling it?
Thomas: With a push model, the source of the content is pushing it out to recipients, and one of the benefits is that it happens more in real-time. So if the hotel company gets an update from their property saying, “Hey, we just opened our new outdoor pool,” they can load that into the hotel central reservation system and do a push out to their distribution partners to let them know that hotel now has an outdoor pool.
The pull is when the distributors come and say, “Hey, do you have anything new?” Or, “Do you have information about this hotel?” The pull model works well if it’s done daily. But otherwise, distributors are not going to know that a hotel added an outdoor pool until they happen to ask for an update on that particular hotel.
One benefit of the pull is that distributors have more control over the updates they receive. If they are merging that information with data from other sources, it may be a better solution for them.
SkiftX: Tell us about current API standards.
Thomas: The OpenTravel Alliance standard is probably the most recognized and most adopted. The EDF standard is specifically for hotel content. And then there’s DRV GlobalTypes, a new API standard that’s focused on amenities and services. Distributors still tend to rely on the big guys, like Expedia and Booking.com, which have created their own APIs because they want to get information from the hotels exactly as they need it.
SkiftX: How do you evaluate the success of a travel content distribution system?
Thomas: Because content plays such an important role in the booking process, I think you can evaluate your content distributor based on how many bookings they’re converting. There are lots of statistics, and some studies show much higher booking conversion rates based on key pieces of information that consumers need to make their buying decision. In a lot of cases, this means photos, but it also includes information about acceptance of kids at the property, whether there are free shuttles, etc. If those questions can’t be answered, then the booking conversion rate is going to drop. This type of information is important to consumers.